4th of July!

Trip Start Aug 30, 2009
Trip End Apr 28, 2011

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Flag of Senegal  ,
Sunday, July 19, 2009

So like most patriotic Americans, and those even not so patriotic, do on the 4th of July, most every volunteer in Senegal ventured to the far east of the country to the region known as Kedagou for a little bbq and beer. Not only is this region known for its beautiful scenery, including wild monkeys, wild boars, and amazing birds, it is also known for the influx of Americans to the area every July 4th, and this year was no exception. The day before, the volunteers in Kedagou arranged a 4K race in the town as a celebration for America's independence and as a way to introduce a few Senegalese to a little American history.  The race was not only for volunteers but locals as well, which included many townspeople and the local gendarme. Needless to say once I heard that the race was open to Senegalese, my hopes of a fellow volunteer winning were shot…Senegalese are ridiculously fast (think Cool Runnings fast). A herd of people showed up for the race and at the sound of the whistle they took off, leaving those of us behind to listen to the "trivia" portion of the race.  This included simple questions about America’s history, and current government, posed to local kids and townspeople.

Very short into the trivia portion of our morning people started standing up, about 7-8mins into the trivia I would say.  We all looked around completely unconvinced that the runners were already on their way to the finish line because honestly that seemed impossible.  However, to our surprise, one of the local Senegalese was sprinting his way to the finish line after about 8mins, meaning that he ran about a 4min mile, which makes me hurt just thinking about it.  Not long after, the rest of the runners started to filter in, including one of our own volunteers who came in with great time considering his competition.  This was probably the highlight of the weekend for me since it was actually the first time I had seen volunteers and Senegalese participate in the same activity so whole-heartedly.

The rest of the weekend was great.  Starting around 12-1pm that afternoon, we walked over to the regional house where people were preparing food, American music was blasting, and beer was flowing freely.  In addition to the beer, there were a few local drinks including honey wine and bissap juice with gin (bissap is a delicious juice made from flowers that every volunteers is now addicted to). We played beer pong, sang patriotic songs, and danced, like true Americans should.  The funny thing about all of this is I think many volunteers never considered themselves overly patriotic before coming to Senegal; however, this country will make one appreciate the amazing things American has to offer.  I certainly value many of America’s niceties way more than I ever did before, and I think many volunteers agree. Let’s be real, doing laundry by hand is a pain in the you-know-what and I would kill for a laundry machine.  I know that is not reasonable and I have accepted that I will be doing laundry by hand for the next two years, carrying water on my head from the well, and using a hole in the ground as a bathroom; c’est la vie.

After returning to site from Kedagou, I only had a few days before we ventured to the great capital city of Dakar for a few days, and then back to Thies for 2 weeks of technical training. Dakar is an amazing place that actually has a grocery store, restaurants with a variety of food choices, an “American” club with a pool for all the ex-pats where we get in free, and many other amazing things that are too numerous to list. Then on to training in Thies.  This portion of training will be devoted less to language and more to the actual skills we will need to be successful volunteers….thank you!  More updates to come soon.
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